The Making of the Rap Flow
Rap, an acronym for rhythm and poetry, is the symbiotic movement of rhythm, poetry, and sound. These elements working together make a rap song.
Today, I am going to focus on developing cadence, or the “rap flow,” that is the defining characteristic of a rapper’s technical proficiency. This skill determines your influence and authority over the art form itself and the languages being used to construct the lyrics to a rap song.
You are a good writer, so how can you turn your words into a professional sounding rap song?
I personally never got into the practice of constructing “bars” when making a rap song. In my view, this method is one dimensional in an art form that requires you, as the artist, to be cognitively multi-directional. Rather than look at any constrictive frameworks like writing rap music in bars, I developed my own unique flow based on the most organic form of rap music, the freestyle. Meaning, once the beat drops what comes out naturally. Once I hear an instrumental, I allow the emotion, words, sounds, and concepts that are sparked during this process of simply listening to dictate the direction of my music.
For me, the flow dictates how my song will be constructed. The well-known architect, Frank Loyd Wright, famously said,
“Form and function are one.”
Similarly, allow your freestyles “non-manufactured” cadence to aid you in the creation and movement of your lyric. This “movement” or rap flow shouldn’t ever be contrived but pure and natural as a means to connect with all your senses. For me, this has made the rap, songwriting process more efficient and enjoyable. I’ve learned from years of frustration of forcing my lyric to fit in a preconceived rhyme scheme – this does not work. Even the most novice listener understands vocal sincerity.
Key Takeaways 🔑
1. Record the idea as soon as possible.
When you hear a melody in your mind, even if you don’t have the lyrics yet, record it on your phone. You can revisit this later and possibly incorporate into a song you are working on.
2. Practice freestyling.
Don’t worry if it’s mostly sounds/humming, etc. at first. It’s as much you learning timing, rhythm, and feeling the music. Many artists hear the word “freestyle” and think about Jay-Z, Lil Wayne, etc. and simply say: I can’t think of that many punch lines or words that will be interesting enough for potential listeners so I will just write my music and then record. Understand, the freestyle process is more for YOU than it is for others. This exercise is an absolute necessity for your developing a distinctive “Rap Flow”. Go back and listen to your freestyles and if you hear anything that stands out, begin there and work your music around that one element!
3. Experiment, experiment, experiment!
After all, music is a creative process. You have no confinement as it relates to how you come up with the best music you possibly can. Challenge yourself to develop and master new techniques. Art is as much as knowing what to remove or stop doing as it is knowing what to add. Let the music feel you, then feel the music and then begin thinking & creating. The freestyle is the foundation for all hip-hop and rap music songwriting. You don’t build a house on a weak foundation, it will not stand the test of time! Get comfortable with freestyle.
4. Develop unique, unconventional rhyme schemes.
Rhyming in rap music isn’t always rhyming in the traditional sense, such as “dime, time, climb. It’s “a line in your mind to navigate to safe havens. Maybe I’m wavering but lately, my words require tailoring, savoring every moment, holding…” Pronunciation is your best friend as it allows you the ability to change directions by “bending words” and using the momentum of your vocals and the production to bounce off of.
About the featured blogger: Zack Fraley is an artist / songwriter and is based in North Carolina.